Christmas Gift-Giving and Happiness Hormones

Christmas Gift-Giving and Happiness Hormones

Christmas Gift-Giving and Happiness Hormones

When we think of gift-giving, we usually think of the most celebrated holiday on Earth: Christmas. But the act of giving gifts can be traced back ten to thirty-five thousand years ago when men lived in caves and gave teeth, stones, decorated bone, shells, ivory, tree bark, or feathers to each other as objects of affection. It's almost as if gift-giving is as integral a part of our DNA, as the color of our eyes. It certainly isn't a new tradition. With the birth of Christ and the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh bestowed upon him by the three Wisemen, sentiment toward gift-giving grew from one gift to several gifts for family and friends. It’s Jesus’ birthday party, and the world wants to celebrate.


The act of giving - determining what should be given and ensuring it's something the person will appreciate - is an act of altruism, one of the highest forms of emotional relating. We feel good when we give gifts, and the recipient feels valued. It's a win/win situation for all involved.


But there's more...


Oxytocin - When we give and receive a gift, our bodies give off the hormone oxytocin, the "love hormone" that is generated when people are in a happy and loving relationship. The accompanying smile that lights each face and the warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of the stomach are physiologically recreated when we give a gift. So, in short, gift-giving is an act of love.


When your body has a surge in oxytocin, it also increases serotonin and dopamine levels; those neurotransmitters science says are responsible for happiness and regulating mood. So, when we give gifts, we experience all three happiness hormones at once! And so does the receiver. Just imagine the burst of happiness hormones when a little girl unboxes eight Happy Lolli gifts!


Because of the body's response to gift-giving, it's easy to see why this tradition has been a fundamental part of all cultures, nations, and societies throughout history. And as cultures expanded and knowledge increased, we found more opportunities to give: Birthdays. Graduations. Weddings. Housewarmings. Births. Anniversaries. Engagements. And sometimes, for no reason at all, other than you're thinking of someone.


So, during the Christmas Season, remember that your happiness hormones and everyone else's will be in full swing spreading Christmas cheer in a way only gift-giving makes possible. It is a way to express gratitude to those who are important to us when words aren't enough. It is a way to foster and maintain relationships that allow us to connect with each on a deeper level. And it should give new meaning to the phrase, "Christmas Cheer."


So, "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" this year. When gift-giving is involved, there's no other way.